This day, a day of loose concentration. Rampant thoughts of travel, running, running, running. I just wanted to go running today in the rare occurrence of sun in June.
Coming back into this after a week without properly practicing and following the list I had set out for progression didn’t take place. Old habits, with a heavier work load.
The steps that I thought would be easier to learn are hardest. The kathaka dithdith thay backwards was so confusing for my mind. Right left, hand onto or down all getting mixed when having to reveres the reflection of the video. So I exported the video with a horizontal flip, so as to mirror the slight bends and hands with ease. This, however, was an undoing of flipping the actions in my head. it took a while to get used to.
ULTIMATELY, its a time keeping problem with the sollukattu. I put the tala to the video thinking that would help, but that also was confusing. Things I had learnt in the past, become messy and were forgotten. I have entered a warp zone. All is swirling and broken. Im sure this is not the worst of it.
I need to sit with the video. Its important to study the video and create a new full flowing jaathi to memories. This is why I can’t flow, because my language is stifled in reverse. I began to do this today and it helped slightly.
I just need to remember that its going to take some time, obviously longer than I had thought.
Going back to learning from scratch, I need to slow down the video and take it easy. My brain was wide today, wide and gallivanting. I mediated but that seemed short lived.
The sun has come to an end so soon, Im not even sure if I even began a day.
An action plan has been formulated. No need to play and experiment as much. I see the tasks necessary for the outcome. It is harder learning the reverse steps than I thought so I need to devote more time to actually dancing. Today I made some progress, like starting a plait I can see the braid now, as I have some of the reverse dance within me. Ta Hatta Jam Thari Ta proved to be very challenging with its light elvish feet hippy hopping about. As predicted the sollu kattu is the challenge. Im seeing the dance as something else now. Keeping time correctly is the key.
Today I attempted so mime work and cutting and moving through the spaces. I tried to do some simple actions backwards, and made a spiral backwards and unfolded it forwards.
From now onward for faster more precise progress:
I will watch the reverse video at least twice a day
I will practice the the steps everyday
I will have the video ready for the residency day
Meditation will happen at home
Blogging will be in the last half hour of the day
Seven days since I have had a day in the studio. The week peppered with reading of Sweating Saris and Somatic Ontology. Gravity. Pre-reflection and Reflection states or learning and experience. Reflection being the state of objective subjective perception, and the pre-reflective space as one of before language, the primal space, the child’s space. “Self is a bodily psychospacial reality” and “intentionality is a psychospacial orientation” pg 78. And Priya’s Archival Body – that the muscle memory is storage place of dead bodies, past bodies – brought to life by the live body. This has links to my liquid body. Agitation. Activation. Archival. Articulation. Actionerring.
I feel a little behind on the academic/intellectual side of this currently, but I know it will catch up after the physical work is done. My intellectual process is stronger in retrospect, albeit still humming away in the back of my liquid body.
Another idea I had at that Arangetram was to take the entrance Ushi of a dance and elongate it so it would go for an fatiguing duration while holding and playing with the anticipation of progressing into the actual dance. My initial intention in to find absurdity in the repetitive and extended duration of the action, but also to mirror the viewers expectation by failing to deliver/begin/change/continue/elaborate. Just Ushi.
Repetitive Ushi on the spot for 20 mins to the camera. I felt myself vacillating through temperaments, emotions, dispositions and the return from altered states. My attention dithered from the warmth of the floor puddled by my persistent slap, to the hallway of my eyes, to mundane activity, to the stamping out/in/of time, to mechanics, and that our lives unfold under the loop of, the misleading anthropocentric term, sunrise to sunset. The notions of cycles brought a circular gaze and movement from my chest between myself and the camera – a perfect circle from me to the camera to the floor to me again, exploring the girth of the ushi gaze. I fell in and out of performing performance, and just performing.
I thought of the Whirling Dervishes, about doing it live, about what it would be like to watch it back and whether the oscillation between absence/presence will be visible through my eyes.
I wondered what the people in the kitchen next door to me thought I was doing with the wooden slap in perfect time.
Adavu means to reach. I think of reaching the ideal, the Platonic forms of another realm -our bodies labouring to transcend. Reaching for my corporeal body, the for the dissolution of body and mind. Reaching for the past, reaching for becoming, reaching for grounding, the most gravitas feeling. The realm, a portion unlocked by Rukmani Devi, is where the popular form of BN begin in the 20th century.
I’m currently reading Sweating Saris By Dr Priya Srinivasan, also taught by Dr Chandrahbanu, about Indian dance as transnational labour specifically during 20th century America. Dr Srinivasan has a unique perspective to her ethnographic investigations, as she is a subject and also what she calls the unruly spectator. The book traces specific immigration laws that effected the status and opportunities for Indian dancers coming to America, and their position as “model minorities” being a problematic and restrictive label. Through this reading I am meeting all the forebears that address the questions of where, how and who I am in this practice of reaching.
I divided the clip of Alarippu into segments, and began to learn the end (now the beginning). It is very important where I splice the image as the correct number of beats to make the full avartanam of Mishra Chappu backward is crucial in flow and learning. I attempted, but as I thought I need a time keeping measure so I can move in time to the reversed clips. I ended up sitting and matching the tala to the forward clip of Alarippu for rehearsal, and then did the revese tala to match the revesre clip – so now its Ta ka Di Mi – Ta Ki Ta (there is no need to reverse the syllables as a beat is a discrete entitiy that sits on its own in the thread of rhythm – for now).
Do I choose to follow the tala, jaathi or the sollukattu?
First onto paper, then into the computer with reference to gestures. Then a version with no gestures, just the every sollukattu syllable typed. From that I made a script of a backward recitation of Alarippu. It was something that felt like needing to be done, but as I was doing it, and not doing the dancing, I felt separating from the form and the purpose. My inclination is that it will be helpful.
The day rolled over so quickly, that Im not even sure if it left the sheets.
I made a new costume for the residency. A simple black Kurta.
I gave my Nikon Alarippu with less facials/enthusiasm. Viewing myself from Day 02 giving Alarippu to the camera had me in some thoughts about ideal forms and beauty, and how that I have never been a dancer that can fly so high – i think that deep understanding of knowing that I don’t and never will have fitted the model made me move toward spaces of periphery, play and experimentation.
I used to laugh a lot in class.
Sifting through the internet has had me exposed to many styles, bodies and relationships to BN. It has helped me break the sensation of normality/usualness of my life with this practice. My approach to this form is very much informed by being a migrant in White Australia, and, colonisation (as is the ‘revival’ of the form) . The way I think, and also the way I accept who I am is a problematic space living with a colonised mind, because “You have to love yourself”, right? Its a loop.
One wise thing that still resonates strong in my head through photographing some First Peoples portraits was “…that its not White Mans fault its, it power that does it…” to paraphrase a gem Dixon learnt from his Grandmother. Where are we all now, how do we work with and toward reconciliation through this colonised boundary?
Seems slightly off topic, but its very much on topic.
Warm-ups lead me to walking around the space which then lead me to some repetitive backwards and forwards kullukum walking exercises. I recorded these. It brought my attention into my limps, into the weight of gravity in my belly. I tried to bring the reverse weight/emphasis in performing the backward steps. I am yet to see the footage.
I enjoy repetition, and the absurd spaces it can take you.
Attempted the teermanam once again. First, just as a test to see what and how I remembered form Day 01. My second attempt was from watching the reversed footage from performing it normally Day 01.
Today I laboured through the strategy of learning the beats (reciting the bols) back to front (not in reverse though), so I could place the correct emphasis (landing and leaving poses) to help me remember and embody the new dance. This, coupled with the reversed video from Day 01, made for an simpler mode of learning. Its ease is also probably due to being accustomed to learning dances from a video in the past.
I eventually got it. I felt a little flow. I have to rid my self of preconceived notions of how I know the dance to beto what the dance has become.
Essentially, I am learning a new Bharata Natyam dance. An awkward nod to dances within the same language set utilising the same rules, its just the sequences are not the same as they were when I was five, or for the entirety of Indian Classical Dance history.
I do wonder what Rumkini Devi, Uday Shankar and all the greats would think.
THE BODY IS INTRISICALLY TIED TO THE LANGUAGE OF BEAT KEEPING.
My first task was to watch the Arangetram video over and over again to create familiarity. Then I just watch the video with no audio, then just lay down to listen to the audio over and over again. Different learning techniques came to mind at different parts of the observing. I think this will be a practice for every day.
I think I will be breaking the dance up into segments to learn from them.
I decided to start with a theermanam (without watching the video)
Thari Kita Thom
Thaka Thari Kita Thom
Kita Thaka Thari Thaka Kita
This was extremely challenging. The language of the beats is tightly tied to the sequence of moments in the body. The rhythm changes when in reverse, so the language too needs to be in reverse too.
Thom Kita Thari Thaka Kita
Thom Kita Thari Thaka
Thom Kita Thari
This was very helpful. BN has deeply ingrained nomenclature that is hard to ignore and impossible to eradicate. This will most likely be an investigation into music and sound for the initial parts of the exploration.
WHERE ARE MY MUDRAS! Arms flying all over the place.
Practice was crucial to finding out more about what I am investigating. Invaluable exploration.
Getting acquainted with the studio space, through my third eye.
Currently undertaking an artist residency at the Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre in Melbourne for 13 days over 8 weeks, I will be posting my findings and progress as I go along. I am using this time to investigate The Reversal of Bharata Natyam through the conversation between physicality and the learning process which documentation allows.
I would like to clarify that I am humbled by this dance form and have no ill will toward this art. I am a human working through the repercussions of colonisation with respect love and curiosity. I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past, present and future. The sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has never been ceded.
I am very grateful for the knowledge and the training that I have undertaken at the Bharatalaya Dance Academy in Melbourne, under the astute tutelage of Dr Chandrabhanu (OMA), who as an artist, intellectual and maverick has shown me the leaps and bounds of a creative journey, and has instilled within me respect and discipline, but most of all curiosity. Thank you, I am deeply grateful for your presence and those before you. To Ambika Docherty for her wisdom, generosity, embodiment, humor and persistence – without you I would not have such courage to face the adversity of dance and its nuances, a brilliant dancer and my first guru.
Thank you Darebin Arts Centre for this opportunity of space and time to take this risk into understanding my performance body.
I have chosen to reverse Alarippu, the first dance I ever learnt. It is a pure dance, nritta, piece of rhythms and phases with a duration of approx 3 mins. Already taken into the editing suite and reversed, I will be using my Arangetram video footage form 2005 as a musical and visual reference. Tala: Misra Chapu, Choreography: Adyar K. Lakshman
MY NOTES FROM THE APPLICATION CIRCA MARCH 2018:
A crucial risk arises from the actual act of turning an ancient classical art form over, inside out and back to front by ‘un-learning’ the steps of a favoured three-minute dance piece – by learning every dance movement in reverse, a new.
I will perform the entire dance from end to beginning, and record it with a video camera. Then, in the editing suite, I will reverse the video clip so it looks as if I were dancing forward in time (normally). The final video will appear traditional, accompanied by a forward-time soundtrack of music and traditional costume against a black backdrop, albeit, interrupted by subtle glitches from gravity and gestural imprecision from the body’s inability to recreate a sequence perfectly in reverse.
The personal risk is the time and training involved in undoing many years of rigours dance education. Reaching a state of flow will require many rehearsals, a great shift in perspective and a deep release of muscle memory. Effectively, each step I perform in reverse is an entirely new sequence of movements. Not only are my limbs learning the form backwards, but so too are my eye movements, and the coming in and out of specific hand gestures.
Another risk is the introduction of video into this performative practice by using the tools of time distortion to alter the correctness of the form, and whether this will translate eloquently with all its glitches and oddities.
This idea has been received with great excitement and interest by my dancing peers and mentors. It is something that speaks to the climate of exploration us Asian Australian dancers are asking of the art form within our experience of living and being Australian contemporary society.
I know that taking the risk to fold this form in on itself, with all its values and traditions, is a big undertaking. But I know this project will contribute to my immediate community of performers, as well as those interested in people who take risks to question, explore and deconstruct themselves through existing structures in contemporary life.